By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
TUALATIN — With popular speaker and best-selling author Francis Chan proving an especially big draw on opening night, Mission ConneXion Northwest provided thousands with its traditional big mix of presentations and activities Friday and Saturday Jan. 19 and 20.
Bill MacLeod, the event’s founder and executive director, alluded to this year’s event theme, “There is Hope,” Friday night as he acknowledged the overflow attendance.
“We talk about hope, like I hope I have a parking space,” MacLeod quipped.
Overall, 3,600 people checked in on site during the two-day run at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, and an estimated 1,700 more watched the conference online.
Sponsored by a wide range of Northwest churches, Mission ConneXion is one of the region’s biggest annual Christian events. It seeks to encourage attenders to consider their role in helping fulfill Christ’s Great Commission to reach a needy world with the Gospel.
In a passionate message, Chan said hope grows as followers of Christ develop a deep, intimate walk with the Lord that provides continual wisdom and revelation. He said that in recent days he had unusually rich and exciting times of prayer, including occasions when those prayers had resulted in physical healings for others — a new, exciting and almost overwhelming experience for him, he admitted.
“I don’t know where you are theologically — I don’t know where I am anymore,” he joked.
More than ever, he said, he was developing “an obsession with Jesus,” but was also troubled because “I don’t see a lot of that in the church in America.” Chan said the Bible is full of examples of people who had an obsession for God, and that effective missions work or discipling of others requires the same attitude.
“If you’re not in love with Him, desiring Him, then forget everything I say,” Chan said.
Citing Ephesians 1:19, Chan said an “immeasurable greatness of power” awaits those who follow after Jesus Christ with their whole hearts. He said it is especially important for church leaders to recognize that and promote it as they seek to guide their flock. “We’re got to start looking at congregations not just as people to be protected, but people with immeasurable greatness who need to be released,” he said.
Another keynote speaker, Peter Greer of the missions organization HOPE International, on Saturday morning emphasized the importance of unity among believers if they are to reach the world for Christ. It’s so important, he noted, that Jesus Himself, on the night before His death on the cross, prayed fervently that His followers not be divided.
“There is a significance to how we interact with one another that has implications to how the world reacts to our belief that Jesus is the Son of God,” Greer said.
How can that kind of unity be encouraged? Greer suggested through three steps:
•an attitude of celebration toward other believers and not envy;
•a desire for collaboration and not competition;
•a focus on “we” instead of “me.”
He said a great example of what working together can accomplish occurred when several Bible translation ministries a few years ago met to develop ways to coordinate their efforts rather than compete. The result is that projections are now that the Bible will be translated into every language on Earth by 2033 — far, far sooner than the earlier prediction of the year 2150 when the ministries were working separately.
“Our goal is not to build organizations,” said Greer. “Our goal is simply to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
Greer also was featured speaker at a pre-conference Leadership ConneXion event that ran Friday morning and afternoon.
Like Chan, third keynote speaker Samuel Stephens of India Gospel League on Saturday afternoon spoke on the intense need for those in missions to have a close, daily walk with God.
“Missions is all about a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. As deep spiritual connections with God occur daily, then true effectiveness in reaching others becomes almost automatic. “Then everything falls into place,” he said. “It is for every disciple to become a discipler.”
By embracing God’s sovereignty, by recognizing that God works in different ways at different times, and by seeking to stay in step with God’s Spirit, then the Gospel can be presented in a way that works, he said.
“Our job is not to save souls, but to take this grace to people in a way they can embrace it,” he said.
Following this kind of approach, India Gospel League has made enormous inroads in reaching a huge nation over the past three decades, Stephens said. Since 1992, 90,000 churches have been planted across India. “There is hope because of the power of the Gospel,” he said.
Also a keynote speaker Saturday evening was Jamie Winship, a Portland resident who has been involved in outreach to the Islamic world for more than a quarter-century.
Missions ConneXion Northwest also offered dozens of exhibits and workshops pertaining to every aspect of missions. For more information, go to missionconnexion.com